Amazon kickstarted the voice interface revolution with their affordable Echo devices. We’re now over 5 years in and they’re great for asking for the weather, starting a Spotify playlist, setting reminders and turning your lights off.
You can of course do lots of other things with voice speakers, as detailed in the excellent “More than just weather and music” book. But, if we’re honest, there haven’t been the plethora of breakthrough use-cases such as we saw shortly after the app store launched on iOS.
Nonetheless, I’m still bullish on voice technology and one of the primary reasons is the existence of drop-down lists.
Since the dawn of the Graphical User Interface, the drop-down list has been a key item in the user experience designer’s toolbox.
How many times have you needed to select your country from a list of the world’s countries when filling in profile information?
It is a useful solution when there is a long list of items from which the user must select one. Without the drop-down list screen real-estate could quickly become taken over by, in this case, 195 country names.
But, despite their uses they also have some significant UX downsides:
- They can be overwhelming and hard to scroll through when they have more than 10 or so items;
- They’re implemented differently across different devices and operating systems making them an inconsistent experience for the user;
- Click-scroll-click is three interactions to get to the selection
- They’re even more finicky on small screen devices
And what about multi-select? What if you want to pick two or more colours from a list? That can become really challenging.
And then there are the Devil’s work of hierarchical lists. How many times have you used a drop down menu with multiple levels and accidentally moved the cursor off of the list only for the whole thing to disappear?